A New York Times editorial reminds us that The United States has a “moral obligation” to screen Iraqi asylum applicants transparently and quickly – especially those who risked their lives to help Americans. The Special Immigrant Visa program was enacted in 2007 for Iraqis who helped the American military, government, and contractors. Although the program authorized 5,000 visas a year, in the first four years after the act was passed, a mere 3,317 were granted. Of programs available to Iraqis to find safety in the U.S., the SIV program has the worst delays, due to security checks. And the delays are getting worse – since two Iraqis in Kentucky were charged with providing arms and money to Al Qaeda last year, the Obama administration imposed additional security checks on all applicants. Now, approval under the SIV program takes a year – at least.
Although no one knows exactly how many Iraqis have been kept waiting, IRAP estimated last July that 62,000 Iraqis were waiting for their applications to be processed – 29,000 of whom had worked with Americans. Now, IRAP believes that 19,000 of those applications have dropped from the process, possibly because people went into hiding.
As the New York Times says: “The United States has a responsibility to rigorously screen visa applicants and ensure they pose no threat to this country. The process needs to be transparent and accountable — and it needs to work expeditiously.”
Read the full editorial here.